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Posts Tagged ‘obamacare’

Saying that Fox News killed Hallie Culpepper may not be hyperbole, but it feels like an unnecessary reinforcement of the partisan divide.

It’s a horrible story. She was an elderly woman who had a fall, and refused medical treatment, because she was scared of what “Obamacare” might do to her. She specified in her will that she didn’t want her money going to “the Muslim Brotherhood”, a terrifying organisation about which I’d lay money Ms Culpepper could not have provided a single fact, beyond that the President was all tied up in their evil affairs somehow.

She died because of ignorance and confusion. The “death panels” she was so frightened of simply don’t exist. None of her poorly understood and incoherently articulated worries had any bearing on reality. She didn’t have to die.

Ms Culpepper watched Fox News “religiously”. There’s no doubt a lot of the misinformation in her head, not least the nonsense that scared her out of accepting medical help that could have saved her life, was shoved in there by one of the most hatefully biased and unjust television channels in America. It might be true for Tracy Knauss to say that Fox News killed his mother.

But that fails to tell the whole story. The problem isn’t Fox News in itself. Fox News are a pustular symptom of the illness of modern politics. They’re among the most virulently efficient institutions at abiding by one of the few remaining rules of the political game: pick a side, stick to your guns, dehumanise and destroy the opposition, and loyally rationalise whatever’s being done by the people on your team who you find yourself having to defend.

If we don’t get out of this tribalistic mindset, there’s always going to be channels to watch or papers to read religiously out there, willing to assure us that only they know what’s best for us, and they’ll teach us how to watch out for those others who wish us ill.

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It might be old news, but I saw one of these in a shop for the first time today. A Boutique edition of Monopoly, coloured entirely in different shades of pink. The focus is shifted from ruthlessly trading in real estate, to having lots of girly fun going shopping. Chance and Community Chest are replaced with Instant Message and Text Message. And it’s very pink.

My gut reaction was to call it the most depressing thing I’ve ever seen, and maybe if I were in a grumpier mood I’d have stuck with that. But actually, I don’t think there’s anything objectionable here. There are dozens of Monopoly spin-offs, and I don’t really see a problem with tailoring the specifics of a game so that a particular demographic can more easily relate to it. I know I’d rather play a version with £’s on the money and bits of London I’ve been to, than with dollars and a bunch of American places I’ve never heard of. The uber-pink theme is just an extension of that.

I know it’s the obvious thing to say that anyone or anything attempting to update itself by mentioning text messaging is tragically unhip, like an embarrassing dad trying to be “down with the kids” and failing hopelessly to get any of it right. But here it just seems like good sense. If I’ve won second prize in a beauty contest, sure, text me about it. But what the hell is a community chest?

The old-fashioned form isn’t “better” just because you’re nostalgic for it, and if somebody else’s childhood didn’t heavily feature Old Kent Road and a little stainless steel model of a dog, you can’t blame them if their current tastes don’t match up with your own personal fond memories. Sure, I’d miss the battleship if it was replaced by a handbag, but this game really isn’t meant for me.

I gather some people are concerned about the unhealthy gender stereotypes it could be reinforcing. If it was called “Monopoly: Girls’ Edition”, I think you’d have a point, but I think it’s just a version for people who like this sort of thing. Which seems fine.

If you like this, Amazon recommends Pink Yahtzee. Now that’s just retarded.

Moving on.

Not that I necessarily needed to be reminded, but this is why Crispian Jago is one of the highlights of the skeptical movement. I never got around to actually finishing my own attempted Pythonesque parody, but I should probably just stand back and let the maestro show us all how it’s done. (“SUSCEPTIBILITY attracting MIASMS? What kind of talk is that?”)

The Perry in that sketch, incidentally, is Simon Perry off of the Leicester Skeptics in the Pub, who had an article about homeopathy in Boots published in the Leicester Mercury paper lately. Less funny, but more informative, and kinda important.

Also, I got to chat to Adam Baldwin earlier. Yes, that one. Okay, it wasn’t exactly a chat, if I’m honest. He posted a link on Twitter to a political cartoon, which depicts a pampered government representative sitting with his feet up on a barrel of money, while several (white) men representing taxpayers are literally picking cotton and singing Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen. The government guy is talking to them about healthcare, and the scene is said to describe “the big issue of freedom vs. socialism. Or, in other words, freedom vs. slavery.”

Yes, the political philosophy of public ownership of the means of production is being equated to the way black people used to be white people’s property.

I made a comment to the effect that this was pretty damn classy.

And whatever else you want to say about Adam Baldwin, you can’t say that he’s totally oblivious to overpowering sarcasm.

He sent me a message back, directing me to this video, in which some US politician I’ve barely heard of asserts that Republicans have historically not been especially progressive, and gets a few significant facts wrong according to the captions. This, I’m told, provides some much-needed “context”. Context to the cartoon in which, if you remember, white people whose tax dollars might have to cover a comprehensive healthcare plan for a few million people who can’t afford insurance, are having their hardships compared to the suffering of the black people who were owned as property by white people a few decades ago.

If this context somehow sheds new light on that, and is supposed to be making me see it in a whole new non-crazy perspective, it’s not working.

I guess there was no particular theme to any of this, but that’s enough for today.

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Yep. I’m talking about politics again.

In theory, I did have a more-sort-of-guideline-than-an-actual-rule about not doing that any more. But apparently that’s being abandoned almost as soon as it was established. I’m not going to get very in-depth or academic, but I feel on fairly safe ground when I ask:

What the fuck, America?

Yeah, it’s the healthcare thing. It’s the retarculous fuckosity that’s dominating what could be a useful national conversation.

It’s the mindless, droning repetition of mantras like “greatest healthcare system in the world”, based on the inviolable rationale that “USA = #1”, without any noticeable consideration of what factors might actually make a country’s healthcare system “great” or less so.

It’s the unimaginative and lackadaisical slapping of a Nazi label onto any policy that displeases you in any small way, restricting any counter-arguments to bellowed accusations of “HITLER HITLER HITLER“.

It’s the way that all of this is reported nationwide, constantly, as if it were really representative of the convictions and actions of a substantial and significant proportion of the country.

It’s the even scarier idea that that might actually be the case.

This piece sums a lot of it up pretty well, and the phrase “death panels” really does neatly encapsulate the problem. Anyone actually referring to these things, as if they were anything but figments, either knows the origin of the phrase and the real details of the policy it describes, or they don’t.

If they don’t, then they’re cluelessly parroting someone else’s ideas, probably because the anti-Obama sentiment suits them fine and that’s all they need. If they do, then they’ve abandoned all pretence of intellectual honesty, and appear not to care how much bullshit they have to make up to win.

The disingenuous nature of Fox News in particular is staggering. Last night’s The Daily Show demonstrated brilliantly what an important role Jon Stewart and his team are playing. They’re at the front lines of the battle to at least keep the debate internally consistent, and to some degree reasonable, enough that the rest of us aren’t head-desking so hard that splinters are stabbing us in the brain.

After the hilarious bollocks some Conservatives have been throwing out about institutions like the National Health Service in the UK in an effort to discredit the idea of socialised healthcare, comedy writer Graham Linehan started a campaign on Twitter. He asked people to report some of the NHS’s success stories that they’d experienced, the care they’d received, and the benefits that had been provided for them by the state, tagged with #welovetheNHS. It took off massively. It was the biggest thing happening on Twitter for several days straight, and produced thousands of stories about people whose parents or children or friends wouldn’t be alive today without the free help provided by the state.

There was a backlash, obviously, but the criticism that was actually interesting came mostly from UK people, in favour of the NHS, who simply didn’t find this form of debate constructive. After all, wasn’t it just countering useless, anecdotal data with more useless, anecdotal data?

I’m still inclined to think that #welovetheNHS does serve a valuable purpose, but we shouldn’t start thinking that this collection of stories amounts to the whole of the opposing side of the argument. It demonstrates the vacuity of certain conservative claims, perhaps, but a debate on public healthcare should be about much more than that. @jackofkent started a new hashtag (at least he’s the first person I remember seeing use it, and I think it began with him), called #wehaveahealthyscepticismabouttheNHS. Ideally, this would be a much better description of the tone of the conversation. It didn’t take off in quite the same way on Twitter, but I think there are a lot of people out there who want to have that healthily skeptical discussion. Maybe even a few right-wing American conservatives who have reasonable points to make, but are reduced to head-desking even harder than I am at seeing the lunacy of those perceived as speaking for them.

The question it seems to come down to, as is often the case in so many other areas of discussion, is: What’s the best approach to take to this loud, persistent, resourceful, and (perhaps irredeemably) irrational onslaught of zealots?

I guess there are parallels to religion in here, which you’ve probably thought about in more depth than I have. There’s much division among atheists about the best way to talk about religion and its adherents, and how to interact with them. Some are merciless and unapologetic in their promotion of science and critical thinking in every area of life, regardless of the danger of religious folk being “offended” by the awkward facts that contradict their arbitrary beliefs. Others decry that group as “shrill” and “militant”, and tread far more carefully as they seek out common ground, aiming to gain acceptance by appearing non-threatening.

I tend to side with the likes of Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers on the militant atheism front, who are both very firmly in the former camp. I’m much less sure of the politically equivalent position, and whether I’d advise Obama taking such a firm stand in quite the same way. But judging by Barney Frank’s recent crowning moment of awesome, I’m tempted to think maybe a little bluntness would go a long way. Would it really do more harm than good to their popularity, if once in a while the White House would just call someone a moron and have done with it?

This is way more than I meant to write about this. I’ll stop now. But you guys carry on. Take this wherever you like, I anticipate the politics getting way over my head soon anyway.

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